I had an unexpected situation happen to me this month. I was sandwiched between the inspiring words of a gold winning United States Olympian and the incredible stories of those honored at this year’s Woman of the Year luncheon. Talk about being a thorn amongst the roses!

Before I take the opportunity in this column to encourage all of you to nominate women for the Class of 2022 – because that is the theme this month…I want to take a minute to tell you how inspired I was at this year’s WOY event. Not just because we successfully pulled off a hybrid in-person and virtual event for over 180 participants. Not just because we successfully raised necessary funds to support emerging women who want to step forward to lead and serve their communities. Not even just because we had a successful full board meeting following the event where we made significant progress toward our goals.

I was inspired by the energy of our dynamic participants including our honorees. Dr. Nancy O’Reilly (our presenting sponsor) embodies all of the skills that we encourage our Challenge Class participants to embrace. International philanthropist, skilled horsewoman, and trailblazer for women’s empowerment, Dr. Nancy believes women who define themselves and others as leaders will hasten their advance to equality. For nearly 30 years she has worked to educate and inspire women to do their best at being strong, powerful, effective and happy. It was empowering to hear her words and to reinforce that she has been a steadfast friend to Greater Missouri. We are grateful for her leadership not only for the Springfield community but beyond. She is doing inspired work with her Connect4Good Foundation.

And that Olympian I had to follow? None other than one of the fastest women alive – Carmelita Jeter. She started her remarks by referring to her remarkable resume. In her words, “it wasn’t easy but I earned every bit of that resume”. She encouraged us to “bet on yourself. Don’t allow anyone to put you in a bubble. You were raised to be the strong woman that you are”. I get goose bumps hearing those words again. I am taking her final words to heart “I can. I bet on myself. And, I’m about to pay it forward”.

That is where you come in. Pay it forward by nominating someone to join our next Challenge Class. Look around you and see what woman you would like to bring along. Encourage them to apply by the end of August so that the board can make our selections during our fall retreat.

And if you are looking for some of the inspiration that has fueled me recently, check out our WOY honoree videos on our YouTube Channel